Mar 17, 2015

South Seattle’s Tree Enhancement Project is Bringing Residents Together

By Ed Nebendahl

Two of the most ethnically diverse neighborhoods of Seattle, Georgetown and South Park, are in the process of adding a new tree canopy to their community. Long seen as just an industrial area, the neighborhood residents are now getting together to plant trees and green the community.

Most area residents love the trees that grow in our urban environment but until recently have given little thought to the importance of a having a tree canopy. The ecosystem services provided by trees are important in reducing air and noise pollution along with improving air quality. In fact, by absorbing and filtering out nitrogen dioxide (NO2), sulfur dioxide (SO2), ozone (O3), carbon monoxide (CO), and absorbing minute particulate matter in their leaves, urban trees perform a vital air cleaning service that directly affects the well-being of urban dwellers. 

But, that’s not all. Trees sequester carbon. That is, they remove carbon dioxide from the air and store it in their trunk, branches and leaves. But wait, there’s more. Along with cleaning the air they decrease the amount of stormwater runoff volume generated during a rainstorm which helps with storage and diversion to the river and Puget Sound which saves on property stormwater fees.

Here are some interesting statistics from a recent Audubon Society CITYgreen study:
  • The whole Seattle area has an estimated average of 23% canopy cover
  • Georgetown/South-park has a 3.7% canopy cover
  • The Delridge district adjacent to Georgetown/South Park boasts the highest at 34.1%
  • A recent study of Georgetown showed the existing trees removed 2,456 lbs. of air pollution for a health care savings approximately $5,523
  • 9 tons of carbon are sequestered annually from the existing Georgetown trees
  • The cost of future stormwater systems with current or future trees in place is $0 as the study revealed with continued improvement of tree canopy cover adequate stormwater capacity is in place.

Progress is being made and a new tree canopy density will be the crowning achievement

Since 2001 the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition, along with the EPA, has been working towards cleaning up and restoring the Duwamish River and adjacent neighborhoods of Georgetown and South Park.  Cari Simson is a big part of the success. As program manager for the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition she has been a part of those successes, but since 2009 has become more involved on a personal level. She started Urban Systems Design as she puts it, “to have a more hands on role helping with the cleanup and restoration”. Her only regret is financially not being able to grow Urban Systems Design fast enough to increase the successes. Already this year her involvement has helped give the communities 80 native trees and by the end of March the goal is 150 trees. She connects people to trees to tree planting.

Local tree giveaway

Cari is currently involved in the Duwamish Tree Canopy Enhancement program. Free tree giveaways is only the beginning. Making sure that everyone receiving a tree knows how and where to plant it, and that they keep up on care to get it through the critical first few years is also an important step.  The location of each tree planted is plotted on an area map to build a tree canopy projection model. Tree giveaways are bringing these communities together to share in planting and care. Social media plays a huge role in keeping people informed of the current happenings.  A webpage, “ Hey Duwamish,” allows people to post comments with information about construction problems and successes so other residents to see these, learn from them and comment on.

The benefits of a healthy tree canopy are more than just a better looking neighborhood. The denser canopy will bring a diverse ecosystem, creating habitat for a variety of urban wildlife and birds. The tree enhancement project is a major undertaking, but will have the benefit of a healthier community. Having the community take charge of their trees is an aspect of the program that truly awesome.

If you are interested in participating please check on the next tree giveaway at!duwamish-tree-canopy/cckk

Another important website to checkout is this new page where you can join in and further increase community involvement.

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